Martial arts failures can often be temporary, but reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has made the strongest suggestion yet that he intends to stay out of the UFC as he has “no plans” to fight.
UFC supremo Dana White appears relentlessly optimistic that he can convince the undefeated Nurmagomedov to return to a money-making final career fight to hit an unprecedented 30-0 record – a once-in-a-lifetime stated goal by Khabib and his late father and mentor Abdulmanap.
White trumpeted a clarification of Khabib’s fighting future after meeting him on Fight Island last week, but later revealed during the UFC on ABC 1 that Nurmagomedov had not yet come to a definitive conclusion about his future.
The promotion president added that Nurmagomedov could opt to return if he sees something “spectacular” from some of the men involved in the UFC 257 lightweight bouts – Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler.
Days after that meeting, however, Khabib has hinted that he suspects his return to the cage is unlikely.
“Let’s start with what drives people,” said Khabib in an interview with Sport24ru. “Hunger. There has to be some motivation, some hunger.
“If you’re not hungry … you know, I’ve been in the sport for so many years, I’ve been doing this all my life. I’ve achieved almost everything in this sport, and there is nobody I want to fight right now.
“I know that there are many fighters who want to make money, who are striving for something. What should I do? A lot of people don’t want to understand my side. I don’t see that yet.”
Khabib was on Fight Island helping his cousin Umar prepare for a successful UFC debut on Wednesday. He beat tough Kazakhs Sergey Morozov in the second round.
Khabib says he has many future projects on his plate, none of which will make him step on the octagonal canvas.
“Something has to happen for me to come back,” he said. “In the near future we have Zubaira (Tukhugov), Islam (Makhachev) and Tagir (Ulanbekov). Umar is fighting (Wednesday).
“Usman … Our fighters who are in the Eagle Fighting Championship league. The league itself that will hold the tournaments in Tashkent, Bishkek, Alma-Ata, Dubai.
“There was a tournament in Abu Dhabi. There will be a tournament in Moscow, St. Petersburg, in Krasnodar. And if we talk about all my business projects – I have so much to do that it is planned … and there are no fights in these.” Plans.
“I train for myself. The greatest thing I enjoy is training. I enjoy wrestling, running, saving, working on pads, working on punching bags.
“I’ve done that all my life and I will continue to train all the time. But when we talk about the fights, they’re not part of my plans.”
Khabib tearfully announced his decision to refrain from mixed martial arts shortly after defeating Justin Gaethje in the second round in Abu Dhabi last October. He promised his mother that he would not continue his fighting career outside of his late father and coach.
Despite speculation to the contrary – much of it fueled by White – Khabib said it would be a long time before he reversed his word to his mother.
“My mother is the most precious thing I have left. Come on, you won’t push me to do things that disappoint my mother,” he explained.
For now, however, Khabib says he has grown tired of the constant speculation.
“They are constantly discussing: he will come back, he will not come back. Today we have 2021. A year ago it was 2020, at the same time, in January.
“And so much has happened. We don’t know what’s going to happen in 2022, 2023, you know? So we don’t talk about it.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t even have any plans for the UFC anytime soon. I don’t even have thoughts about preparing for a fight.
“I’ve seen Umar prepare now and I think: Alhamdulillah, I left it behind. Don’t torment me – let me enjoy what I have today.”
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